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The Division 2 Episode 2 preview: A big step forward for agents of all levels

It's been a while since there was an update to The Division 2 of the magnitude of what is coming on October 15. In recent weeks the dev team has been teasing what's coming through official streams and PTS access on PC to check out some of the under the hood improvements.

But this update is the biggest one to date. Not only does it include Title Update 6 and a host of improvements to the base game, it brings with it Episode 2, the all-new narrative content that continues the story of the fall of Washington D.C.

We've spent a little time examining the new update ahead of its scheduled launch, and here's what you can expect.

Pentagon: The Last Castle

Ahead of launch, no spoilers, so you're safe to read on if you're keen to avoid any details, though we'll have a playthrough of the first mission as soon as the update is available. But here's a brief outline of what to expect.

Upon launching Episode 2 you're presented with a cutscene, the same as has been broadcast ahead of time. It's a transmission from a Division agent located at The Pentagon, which has been invaded by Black Tusk forces.

It's your job to get down there and retake The Last Castle.

There are three main parts to the Episode 2 narrative content, the first being an intro mission that sees you fight your way to The Pentagon and establish a safe house. From there the action is split into two main missions, and unlike the Episode 1 missions, you can simply go right into the second after finishing the first since they're in the same location.

The Division 2

The Division 2 (Image credit: Windows Central)

I've played through the new missions and they're quite exciting and a nice challenge. There's a ton of material loot, some nice gear to find that also includes faction caches and even a couple of key boxes.

I've no idea what the inside of The Pentagon looks like but the level design is very good, and it certainly evokes the sort of feeling that you really could be inside this top-secret government facility. The second mission, in particular, looks most excellent. There's naturally a ton of detail throughout the new mission areas as you'd expect, and a nice variety of different indoor and outdoor areas to fight your way through.

The Episode 2 missions are available to play from October 15 for anyone who owns the Year One Pass, but everyone else will get to play them a week later.

Loot targeting improvements

The Episode 2 content is only half of this mammoth update to The Division 2, and for a lot of players it's the Title Update 6 (TU6) improvements that matter most. One of the biggest changes is the introduction of a loot targeting system, designed to make it less tedious to locate the specific gear you want to farm for without making it as obvious as simply saying "do this mission."

Loot targeting applies to the entire map save for the raid area, which remains a dedicated rewards area. The Dark Zone is covered, all missions and strongholds, even the new Pentagon mission areas.

When you go to a main mission now besides the regular "rewards" info which provides you basic information still, you'll see what type of gear there is an increased allocation of as well as what type of materials will drop.

I'm particularly happy that materials are included as well as just gear because farming materials for projects is an absolute nightmare. At least with TU6 it's possible to see which missions are good to hit to get these finished with better efficiency.

There's also a loot allocation view on the map (press up on the D-Pad on Xbox) which breaks it down even further. On a region, by region basis, you'll see a breakdown of what type of loot has a higher percentage chance of dropping in that area. It covers types of gear as well as brands and resets daily.

I think this is a good balance between helping players farm more efficiently to get specific items for their builds and just flat out attaching specific items to specific places. After all, the RNG is part of the game for better or worse, and there's always the chance to be surprised.

Loot targeting changes will be available to all players from October 15.

New specialization - Technician

With a new episode comes a new specialization, and players with the Year One Pass will unlock it immediately upon launch, while everyone else can begin the field research towards it.

The Technician has a few neat tricks up its sleeve, not least the badass new missile launcher signature weapon. In operation, it'll lock onto your target, fire multiple rounds at once and do some serious damage. With the maximum buff applied from the skill tree, it won't destroy bosses with full armor, but one I did come up against in the Pentagon missions was wiped out from the last bar of armor. So it'll still help you out in a pinch.

I think the missile launcher is pretty well balanced, and even with the increased power you can apply in the skill tree, it never feels too strong. It's a good weapon to have against both strong NPCs like bosses as well as in a crowded situation with many enemies attacking. In the new missions, you're attacked from all sides quite often and the missile launcher proved to be a good ally in leveling the playing field.

The Technician also gets buffs to the hive skill, including one that even the dev team has been struggling with the name of. You can pick the hive up now, too, if you haven't utilized all its charges and it returns to you with no cooldown until it has been exhausted.

And one of the things perhaps most useful with the Technician, especially going into the Episode 2 missions against Black Tusk is the EMP grenade. So now you can toss your own EMP into the mix since the boot is usually on the other foot.

A more populated Dark Zone

The Division 2

The Division 2 (Image credit: Windows Central)

The Dark Zone is one of the best places to farm gear on the map, it's also the only place outside of the Conflict mode where you can go up against other real world players. Whatever your feelings on the Dark Zone, it's been obvious for some time that it wasn't being used to its full potential.

From TU6, there is a new server system in place to try and ensure that when you hit the Dark Zone, it's as full of other players as possible. When you hit a checkpoint now there will be a server transfer to ensure you're going into as populated a Dark Zone as possible. Hopefully, it works without a hitch and players don't see any noticeable jank. Unfortunately, a private preview server isn't a great place to put this to the test so it'll be something we're watching eagerly when the update goes live.

Also new in the Dark Zone is an improved Thieves Den vendor and supply drops. But perhaps the best of all the Dark Zone changes is the removal of normalization for players at Gear Score 500. Players who are below 500 will get a buff to the level of a basic build at Gear Score 500 instead in Conflict and non-occupied Dark Zones, so they can still venture in and be competitive.

But those who spend the most time perfecting their builds will no longer be punished in the Dark Zone. And I don't think anyone can disagree with that.

Gear, gear and more gear

It's all about the gear, right? Episode 2 and TU6 bring not only changes to how you can find gear but some new hotness to acquire. And the best of the bunch are the exotic Sawyer's Kneepads you see above. Besides looking amazing, they're all about jamming tech which is particularly useful against the Black Tusk.

There's a new shotgun, too, the KSG, if you're into that (personally I never use shotguns), as well as 38 new branded gear pieces to take all brands except 5.11 up to a full catalog of six items to help promote build diversity. Named items are also getting a perfect talent attached to them.

All this new gear is accompanied by a reworking of the recalibration system and crafting as a whole, part of which is a wider availability of materials being dropped by enemies. Firsthand I can say that it looks like the Pentagon missions are going to be prime targets for farming materials. Plenty gets dropped and there's an insane amount littered around the mission area.

A huge update

There's a bunch more to the Episode 2 TU6 update I haven't even touched on here, this is one seriously beefy release. Here's a quick-fire list of some other features coming and bits I didn't yet get to try out first hand:

  • There's now the ability to have 12 loadouts along with reworked inventory menus.
  • The stash size is now bigger allowing you to save up to 300 items.
  • New Wharf map added to Conflict.
  • New Team Elimination mode added to Conflict.
  • New Expedition mastery system - Kenly College expedition is re-opening at the launch of TU6, closing after two weeks then re-opening on November 12. The new mastery system will reward you based on completion times for the investigations as well as applying a modifier in a similar vein to those found in Global Events in the first game.
  • Two new classified assignments for Year One Pass holders.

I'm excited for the new content in The Division 2, and while it's impossible to please everyone, there are some positive changes in here to make the quality of life in the game better for the community.

Episode 2 content will release on October 15 for Year One Pass holders, and a week later on October 22 for everyone else. TU6 content such as the loot targeting system and Dark Zone improvements will release on October 15 for all players.

Richard Devine is an Editor at Windows Central. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently you'll find him covering all manner of PC hardware and gaming, and you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.